Exploring The First Chapter Of 'Final Fantasy XV'

Last week, E3 attendees, including our own Community team, had the chance for some hands-on time with Final Fantasy XV. But instead of the short boss battle demo our Community fellows saw, I was treated to a different portion of the game--the entire first chapter. There are were many parts of the build that fans are bound to be excited about come September, but there was one aspect that could be a nuisance for veterans and newcomers alike.

Middle Of Nowhere

The demo started with me (as Noctis) and my gang of friends pushing our car on a long stretch of road in the middle of the desert. Eventually, we got the car to a gas station, owned by an old man named Cid. His daughter Cindy offered to fix the car in exchange for a few services, specifically hunting down some monsters in the area. At this point, I could have gone either straight for the monsters in question or explored the surrounding desert for a little bit. I chose to wander off the beaten path.

It’s no surprise that this desert location is massive. There were tall mountains in the distance, hills of different sizes dotting the landscape, and pockets of small towns throughout the area. With the car out of commission, I had no choice but to travel around on foot. Obviously, I couldn’t make the long trek in one day, so I made camp at dusk.

Ignis, one of my comrades, warned that the monsters were more dangerous at night, so it was better to set up camp than risk death. With a campfire set, I could have passed the time quickly so that the game fast-forwarded to the morning, or I could have chosen to cook a meal. Based on the recipe and ingredients, dishes such as a bowl or a meat-focused meal provided bonuses such as increased attack or defense.

When the sun rose the next morning, I continued on the journey. There were (thankfully) many quests available in each town. This ensured that I always had something to do instead of just wandering aimlessly in the desert.

Swinging At Shadows

Eventually, I decided to track down a group of monsters for a quest. As I targeted one of the creatures, the three others characters started to attack other monsters in the same group. Veterans of previous demos of the game, such as Episode Duscae and the Platinum Demo, will have an idea how the combat works: You use three different weapons to chain light, medium and heavy attacks together in order to vanquish enemies. In addition, you can parry and dodge attacks, and you can use multiple abilities, such as Warp Strike, to gain an advantage in combat.

However, this is all easier said than done. With a flurry of weapons flying around the battlefield, the fights tend to get chaotic, and not in a pleasant way. Even if you specifically target an enemy, it’s hard to see where they are because they constantly move around. There were a few times where I tried to break an enemy’s guard with the Warp Strike ability, but by the time I reached the enemy’s location, it already moved to another place or it easily broke my attack with its own counter-move.

At times, I’m fairly sure that I succeeded in a battle only because I was in the right place at the right time. For example, we encountered a large beast that took a few minutes to take down. During the fight, the in-game tutorial told me to use Warp Strike as a way to deal critical damage, but even when I followed the instructions, it seemed like the special attack wasn’t effective. To make matter worse, some of my allies (as well as myself) were knocked out a few times. Any member of the group could heal a downed comrade to get them back in the fight. However, the fast-paced nature of combat made the simple act of healing incredibly difficult. Also, it seemed that I could control Noctis only, and even when he was knocked out, I couldn’t switch to another character. I had to sit and wait for one of the group members to revive me.

Near the end of the fight, I executed two special group attacks that amazed the developers who were standing behind me watching my session. In truth, I had no idea  how I pulled off the special moves. In all the confusion during combat, I just started button-mashing and hoped for the best. I’m not sure how long it will take seasoned Final Fantasyplayers to get acquainted with the combat, but for me, 90 minutes wasn’t enough.

Road Trip

After I defeated the monster, the group headed back and found out that the car was fixed. This allowed the group to travel farther than before, so I hit the road with the crew. This was the first time I had the chance to control the car, and the experience was disappointing.

I would compare the driving movements to that of a roller coaster on a track. Other than speeding up or hitting the brakes, I couldn’t steer the car in any direction that I wanted. Once it was on the highway, it wouldn’t leave its lane unless I turned onto an off-road path, gas station, or another street.

Eventually, I directed the car to travel to a nearby port to advance the story. However, I then had to wait for a ferry to take Noctis and his friends across the sea. In the meantime, I could take on more quests or participate in other activities such as fishing for food or talk to my comrades about our current mission.

The extra time also allowed me to explore other parts of the game, such as the magic synthesis system. By combining elements of fire, ice and lightning that I found in the desert, I could craft stronger magic spells to use in combat. There weren’t many elemental variations in this build, but that will change in the final version.

Cautious Optimism

As I left the demo session, I had some mixed feelings about Final Fantasy XV. I loved the numerous quests and the massive open-world scenery, but the combat wasn’t as exciting as what was presented in the Platinum Demo. I understand that the developers wanted to make it fast-paced and intense, but I also need to feel as if I have control over how Noctis fights. Instead, it was a confusing blur of swords slashing through the air and creatures attempting to swipe me with their claws. There has to be a better way to find order within the chaos of combat.

I could live with the driving issues, but the game’s combat needs some improvement. If it's not changed before the September 30 release date, there are going to be many unhappy fans.

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NameFinal Fantasy XV
TypeAction/Adventure, RPG
DeveloperSquare Enix
PublisherSquare Enix
PlatformsPlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release DateSeptember 30, 2016
Where To BuySquare Enix Online StoreAmazonBest BuyTargetWalmartGamestop

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  • jtown82
    They have ruined FF going this route with combat. Then again FF hasn't been any good since FFX
  • Kimonajane
    Give me the FF XII remake that is suppose to come out in 2017. Don't change the combat system or the Gambit system, just do a complete graphics and soundtrack overhaul please. I heard you can listen to the old soundtrack too if you wish. I hope what I read is true.
  • CaedenV
    This is the first FF that I have been excited about in a very long time.
    VII was OK, but certainly not as amazing as the internet seems to believe
    VIII was pretty good. Certainly better than many recent releases.
    IX was fantastic! Would love to have another cartooney but epic story like this some time!
    X is probably my favorite of all time! Sure, some shortcomings of the game being 'on rails', but outside of that it was a near-perfect FF story and game play experience. Just finished the HD PC release and it holds up really well!
    X-2 was fun... but not great. I did enjoy all the mini-games though!
    XII (because nobody was really interested in an MMO) was OK, but suffered from so many gameplay, graphical, and sound issues. Should have been delayed and released for PS3. Also, while the gambit system was neat, once you had a good set of gambits (which only takes 1/3rd of the game) then the rest of the combat is just walking around and letting your characters do their thing. Would love to see a remake that looks and sounds as good as it was meant to, and has a little more player involvement in the late game play.
    XIII-1 was OK. Not as bad as reviews gave it (no more on rails than X was), but story and character development wasnt great.
    XIII-2 was AWESOME! Not as endearing as X in the way of story, but it was just fun to play with great combat. I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed this, though like the rest of the series, the story was weak. But at least there was an attempt at character development.
    XIII-3/Lightning returns kinda stunk... I think. I mean, the game 'worked', but I never got past the 3rd or 4th day. The story was so ridiculous and convoluted, and the characters so shallow that I just didn't care. And then the whole day/night cycle constantly had me frustrated and running in circles trying to be in the right place at the right time. Combat was OK... but I always felt like I was far out matched no matter how hard I ground to level up. I could progress with effort, but it was too much effort with far too little reward to continue. It is the only FF game I didn't complete, and don't care to complete... so that is saying something.

    So now we come to XV; The visuals look great. The audio sounds amazing. What story was leaked/alluded to back in the FFXIII days looked promising. The 2 episodes that are up of the Anime look great. I love the Kingdom Hearts style gameplay and am interested to see how that works in a FF game. This has all of the makings for a great game. Still, this is not the only review that says the battle system needs work, so that is a little scary.
    Regardless, FFX was the last game that looked good ahead of time and actually was good. XIII-2 was a surprise hit in my house, but it may have only been good because we had low expectations. It has been 15 years since the last highly anticipated FF game. That is a lot to live up to! Hope they do it good!
  • CaedenV
    18157438 said:
    They have ruined FF going this route with combat. Then again FF hasn't been any good since FFX
    Did you play XIII-2? The battle system in that was actually pretty good. Having 2 main characters and a hot-swapable alt was a lot of fun to play. I agree that X was better, but XIII-2 is still very fun in a different way.
  • CaedenV
    18158050 said:
    Give me the FF XII remake that is suppose to come out in 2017. Don't change the combat system or the Gambit system, just do a complete graphics and soundtrack overhaul please. I heard you can listen to the old soundtrack too if you wish. I hope what I read is true.

    I have mixed feelings about the gambit system. In the early gameplay it was really interesting to play with, and an invaluable mechanic as there was no nice way to micromanage your cohorts. But by the 50% point in the game you have so many gambits to choose from that you no longer really 'play' the game. You just run around, and then zone out for a minute while your characters fight. If you find baddies that are too strong, then you go grind away, which is a super passive experience with good gambits, and then come back.
    I also had issues with the boss battles. I am the kind of person who likes to play through 90% of the game, then go back and do side-quests and grind, and then complete the game. That way the story plays out very naturally and you are less likely to loose the plot. But in XII you pretty much have to do all of the side quests and boss battles right away either to progress the story, or because there is no other easy way to get enough XP to level up... unless you do even more mindless grinding.

    Still, I largely agree. Most of the issues with the game were the terrible audio and graphical experience. If they fix that then the game should be pretty fun. But if they could give players some other mechanic to do in the late game experience when battles largely take care of themselves it would help.
  • Noose_
  • Noose_
    "They have ruined FF going this route with combat. Then again FF hasn't been any good since FFX"

    This sure doesn't sound like they ruined FF. The combat has mixed reaction from others. But as long as there are quests and plenty of things to do and that the story is good, Then I don't mind mediocre combat. Witcher 3 and Skyrim don't have great combat, yet everyone loves them.
  • Brandon_29
    Why they changed FF games to ARPGs is beyond me. I like Kingdom Hearts games, but I don't want FF games to have that same combat system. What's next DQ, oh wait they tried that too. Damn ever since Squaresoft and Enix merged it has been a downhill slope. They had a couple good games, but as a whole the quality just kept dropping (remember a lot of the early square-enix games were in development long before the merger).
  • Quixit
    Anything is better than the auto-mode combat of Final Fantasy XIII.
  • Demad_Hatter
    Did this viewer try the wait mode?